Star Trek in IMAX

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Doug Pyle, May 10, 2009.

  1. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    NOTE: Please limit comments in this thread to the IMAX showings of the new Star Trek movie.

    Anyone who saw Star Trek in IMAX - please comment on how aspect ratio was handled. Was it true to OAR? Does an IMAX presentation overly squeeze image size or pose other problems, in contrast to the size of an image in standard theatrical projection? Is the improved resolution and impact of the IMAX presentation worth the premium admission price?

    I am interested in seeing it in IMAX - but only if OAR is preserved. If anyone has seen both versions, a comparison would be great!

    Feel free to make any qualitative comments about the IMAX showing. Thanks!

    (P.S. I attempted to raise this question in the 'Star Trek official review' thread, but as this is specific to IMAX showings, the topic got lost among the general reviews.)
     
  2. Bryan Beckman

    Bryan Beckman Second Unit

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    This thread may get folded into the existing discussion thread, but I'll respond anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

    There are two kinds of IMAX these days: the "real" ones that have a 15-perf/70mm print and the "digital" ones that use two 2K projectors and a smaller screen. I saw Star Trek in the former, as I have no use for the latter.

    All IMAX DMR presentations these days are true to the OAR and don't involve any trims to the running time (unlike Apollo 13 and Star Wars Ep. II, for instance). Everything's just . . . bigger, you know, which is what IMAX is all about.

    Given the frenetic nature of the photography for this film, an IMAX viewing may not be the best choice for you. It was certainly more difficult to follow things during the opening space battle. The sound was OK, with some nice sonic booms whenever the Enterprise went to warp speed, but it wasn't as spectacular as say, Batman Begins or The Dark Knight in IMAX, both of which threatened to shake down the house.

    For me IMAX is almost always fun and a sure way to avoid the thought, "I could probably do better than this at home" in regards to the A/V presentation of the movie. In this case though, I think seeing it in a first-run theater in the next couple of days would give you a bit better bang for the buck. I know that if I ever see it again in a theater I won't be going back to IMAX - a possibility I never dared consider after seeing The Dark Knight in that venue.
     
  3. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    As previous films always have been, Trek was shown in its oar, 2.35 letterboxed within the 1.44 frame.

    And the presentation was spectacular!
     
  4. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    Bryan,
    Thanks for your comments:

    You pointed out an important distinction that we all should know when we buy the more expensive IMAX tickets. Not all "IMAX Experience" is the same. I googled "Star Trek aspect ratio IMAX" and got a number of informative links to technical discussions on IMAX (Digital) versus original IMAX.

    I was unaware of the controversy over digital IMAX until now. I've seen one IMAX 3D film (Monsters versus Aliens) and was very impressed. Turns out it was in the newer digital IMAX 2K. Digital IMAX (2K) may be particularly well suited for 3D, as it employs simultaneous use of 2 projectors. For 2D, this 2-projector system apparently saturates the large screen (compensating for the digital resolution versus analog large-format film).

    While there are pros and cons to the IMAX 2K Digital system, it is clearly not the same as large format analog IMAX. I do wish there was honest advertising, and theaters presenting IMAX Digital would make clear which form of IMAX they project. I don't think "Experience IMAX Digital" would scare away general audiences.

    ________________________________
    Edit: The technical information in this post is based on web search data - I am no expert. If there are inaccuracies, I will appreciate any corrections offered.
     
  5. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    Most of the issues asked in the OP concerning OAR have been addressed ever since commercial films started getting the DMR transfers to IMAX.

    However, Bryan does have a point about the "Digital" IMAX presentations. They will not be anything like a "Real" IMAX presenation and the fact that the IMAX corporation does not call these installations "Digital" and still just bills these facsimile theaters as "IMAX" is somewhat annoying to operators of real IMAX theaters and disingenuous to the public at best. In any case, if a theater you've been going to for a while suddenly has banners up touting their new "IMAX" theater, you can bet it's one of these Digital ones.

    My first viewing of Star Trek was in an IMAX theater, my second was in a DLP Projection theater. I liked the DLP presentation better for a few reasons. Here are some bullet points concerning the two:

    1) I suspect the IMAX theater I saw it in was due a new lamp or something, or it was getting too much voltage because the black levels were raised and the whites were blown out, both in the trailers and in the film.

    2) I've never really been a fan of DMR'd films, thinking they looked a bit soft, and this one was no different.

    3) Given the black bars on the IMAX version to preserve the OAR, depending on the size of the IMAX you go to and the size of your local multipex, a regular theater screen may actually have just as large an image as the IMAX anyway - which was my case between my IMAX showing and my DLP showing.

    4) DLP projection is alot cleaner. I worked in an IMAX, and you have to sit there diligently pressing the "field flattener" button to keep dust and debris out of the image of an IMAX movie, and if you have an operator who's not attentive (and after you've sat through the same film six times in one day, who can be as attentive as in the morning?) you end up with dust and debris moving around on the screen - and due to Murphy's Law said debris always ends up right at the center of a lens flare in this movie.

    5) This was my first time seeing anything projected via DLP so maybe it was placebo but I actually felt the colors seemed a bit better - though that too could be due to what I think were some lamp issues in the IMAX film.

    6) The IMAX theater had better sound, no debating that part, it almost makes it worth going at least once, even if the visual presentation has issues just to hear the movie's soundtrack being pumped through an IMAX system.

    Anyway, those are my opinions on the matter. You also want to make sure if you see it in IMAX that you're seeing it in a flat-screen IMAX and not in a dome. The black bars used to preserve OAR create alot of noticeable distortion if these commercial DMR films are presented on a dome screen.

    Does anyone know what the difference is between IMAX's new Digital 2K system and seeing something just billed as a DLP Projection? What's the resolution of a DLP projection?
     
  6. Bryan Beckman

    Bryan Beckman Second Unit

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    Yes, whatever you do, DON'T see any IMAX DMR movie in a dome.

    Our local AMC 24-plex just hoisted its new IMAX signage on the building exterior. So, I too went to the IMAX website to see if it would tell me whether or not it was old-school (large screen analog) IMAX or new-school (2K projectors/smaller screen/destroying the brand) IMAX. It wouldn't tell.

    However, given the 100-theater deal IMAX signed with AMC last year, you can be reasonably assured that all new IMAX screens attached to AMC googleplexes will be IMAX digital.

    I'm not going to buy a single ticket for one of those shows until I go to the theater and get a look at the screen for myself. I'm pretty sure my hunch is correct, though. And there's no way I'm paying $15 for the IMAX brand name just to get a theatrical experience that should already be the standard for all movie houses: bright, clear, focused picture; and accurate sound, both in reproduction and volume.

    However, I wonder if IMAX digital screens showing 3D movies might be a cut above the RealD projectors, at least in terms of brightness. Roger Ebert has really railed against 3D presentations over the past few weeks, mostly because the picture is really, really dim. That certainly dims (pun intended) my enthusiasm to see films like Up in 3D, regardless of the painstaking efforts of the Pixar animators to render it as such. I don't think there will be any IMAX 3D showings of Up, though.
     
  7. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    Apollo 13 was not presented in its original aspect ratio for its Imax engagement.
     
  8. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

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    My wife and I saw Star Trek on Friday in an AMC digital IMAX theater. The screen was still the same size as it was when it wasn't an "IMAX" and we felt that it was a bit deceptive to call it IMAX. She was so disappointed it wasn't a true IMAX experience, she went to a REAL IMAX theater the next night with her sister and saw it on the 50 ft screen. She also paid $4 less to see it at 7 p.m show on Saturday at the real IMAX than she did at the AMC pseudo-IMAX on Friday at 7 p.m.
     
  9. Nathan*W

    Nathan*W Screenwriter

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    Spent the extra for the IMAX ticket, but it was the digital type and the screen didn't really seem that much bigger than a regular theater. Should've just gone to a regular showing.
     
  10. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    OK - Having raised the question in this thread, I finally got to see Star Trek today in IMAX (a 2K digital version).

    Much may depend on one's local theater. In the local IMAX Digital theater we attended, it was worthwhile. It was a premium experience justifying a premium price - just not the same premium as analog IMAX. My conclusion is that theaters & IMAX should be honest about the differences and trust audiences to understand. If the 'digital' format was honestly advertised, I'd have no complaint.

    After the ST showing, I polled my family - all agreed it was worth the extra $$ for IMAX even in the digital format. The image was very clear, bright, and appeared somewhat larger (even letterboxed) than films in the same theater hall before IMAX. I don't know specs, but the architecture apparently allowed a large enough screen installation to make a difference.

    The sound was impressive - shook the floor like no other film I've been to - loud, dynamic and clear. If anything, ST was a bit too loud, with its long, peak-volume battle sequences.

    Letterboxing was done smartly - all the image at top of screen, with just one black bar discretely placed at the bottom of the screen. It gave the illusion that the screen was itself widescreen - the black area below was no distraction at all.

    The theater was honest when asked; ticket staff stated that it was digital not analog. When we looked back over our shoulders, we saw two simultaneous projections from the booth, and the words "IMAX Digital" clearly showing on the projection machine (doesn't seem right to call it a 'film projector').

    3D may be where IMAX Digital makes the greatest difference for me. A recent IMAX Digital 3D showing in this theater did not suffer from any dimness at all - it was bright, and the 3D illusion was surprisingly convincing. Overall, a very impressive 3D presentation. I do remember 3D oldies like Creature From the Black Lagoon. Viewing IMAX Digital 3D was the first time a 3D movie appeared as more than just a gimmick. (Made me wonder as a photographer about new challenges for frame composition in 3D.)
     
  11. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    Hmmmm, thanks for that info. I've never seen one of those RealD 3D films, though a theater down the street from me has a theater equipped with it. A theater about an hour away from me where I used to live has a new IMAX Digital installation.

    A neat experiment would be to go and see "Up!" in both venues and note the differences. I'm guessing both are 2K, but the difference may be (aside from the IMAX using a slightly different ratio screen to support traditional IMAX films ported to the digital format) the lamps used in both. I wonder if the IMAX digital uses some smaller format version of the huge lamps used in their regular IMAX film projectors - hence the brightness differential.

    I have no complaints about the brightness levels in the regular DLP presentation of Star Trek that I saw, so the brightness issue (as I've read) seems to only be with the 3D movies, using that Real3D system.
     
  12. Bryan Beckman

    Bryan Beckman Second Unit

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    "Up" will not be distributed in IMAX 3D.

    Here is an interesting editorial on the deliberate branding confusion created by IMAX, and here is a listing of all IMAX theaters in the U.S. and whether they are small-screen digital ("D") or large-screen analog ("1570" for 15-perf/70mm).

    It's worth noting that true IMAX large screens are 1.44:1, while the new "digital" variety are 1.9:1. Think of it this way: Chris Nolan filmed several sequences for "The Dark Knight" with IMAX cameras in the 1.44:1 format. If audiences had seen "The Dark Knight" in IMAX Digital auditoriums, either the top or bottom of the frame would have been sheared off or pillar-boxing would have been introduced to maintain OAR.

    Perhaps the company will rename itself as IMEDIUM soon.
     
  13. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

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    Based on our experience, I doubt we'll pay the extra $ for the digital IMAX again, especially when we can go to the real IMAX for less. At least in our area.
     
  14. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Cinematographer

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    Perhaps slightly off-topic, but is it normal in the US for theatres to charge extra for the IMAX screenings (real or otherwise)? I've never personally encountered such a practice here (that's not to say it doesn't occur)--the theatre I frequent has a real IMAX theatre, and charges normal admission for it.
     
  15. Waylander

    Waylander Agent

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    Well I'm in BC, Canada and IMAX (both original and digital) has always been about $5 more expensive than regular tickets. I'm shocked that it's not in your area. You lucky #@$%! [​IMG]
     
  16. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Cinematographer

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    Interesting. I guess Calgary is some sort of oddity (don't I know it [​IMG] )
     
  17. Greg Kettell

    Greg Kettell Screenwriter

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    Well as I posted in the other thread, our local Regal recently added an IMAX digital theater. They removed the front section of seats (the non-stadium rows) and put in as large a screen as could fit. The picture was great, and the sound was incredible. I don't think it'll be worth the price premium for most movies, but for the occasional "event" picture, I'm there.
     
  18. Pete-D

    Pete-D Screenwriter

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    Josh -- Are you sure? I'm pretty sure the Chinook IMAX in Calgary charges extra for IMAX tickets.

    And looking at Cineplex.com confirms this ...
    Monsters Vs. Aliens 3D IMAX is $17.50 (wowza) to buy a ticket ($5 more).

    The Chinook IMAX also is a ripoff ... the screen is not much bigger than some of their larger sized regular screens and far smaller than the old IMAX that used to be at Eau Claire Market.
     
  19. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Cinematographer

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    Huh. I guess I'm wrong--thanks for looking it up. I guess I didn't remember paying anything extra the one and only time I've seen a movie in the Chinook IMAX theatre. Now I'm glad I don't bother checking out the IMAX experience versions of movies [​IMG]
     
  20. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Producer
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    I gotta say, I saw it in IMAX over the weekend, and I thought it looked fantastic. I was lucky enough to catch it in one of the old-fashioned film IMAX theaters and not one of the new, smaller digital rooms. As others have reported, the film's aspect ratio was correctly letterboxed to 2.35:1.

    It was a pretty fun experience on the regular screen, but seeing it for the second time in IMAX just blew me away... the quality of the visual effects, the sound design, everything -- highly recommended if you have a chance to see it this way!
     

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